A Time to Swim
This week will see 80 degrees in Chicagoland. God be praised.
I am already looking forward to the blessing of sweat glistening on my skin, coats going into storage, and the air I breathe feeling more like it originated in an oven than from a freezer.
The other hallmark of summer, one that my daughter prizes a bit higher than I do these days, is swimming. In the light of that discussion, it occurs to me that we often don't realize that for our own formation into Christlikeness we "swim" in a variety of different streams.
Every person explores different pathways and activities that lead them to growth and maturity - leads them to look like Jesus.
Too often we think there's only one kind of activity, one type of getting to know God and understanding His desires for us, and it becomes limiting for us. Yes, reading Scripture and praying is critical for our health and maturity. However, swimming in that stream alone will hide us from other good, beautiful, and true pieces of the life God has for us.
Richard Foster in his book Streams of Living Water talks about six different streams of spirituality in the Christian tradition. Today, I think we need to take seriously whether the absence of one of these streams takes away from the richness of our lives in Christ. Foster's point is that when these six streams come together we live the "With-God Life."
The whole package. The whole enchilada.
Take a look at the six streams below and see if there is any "water" that isn't flowing through your life today:
1. The Prayer-Filled Life: this stream focuses on relationship with Christ and depth of spirituality. This stream speaks to a longing for a deeper, more vital Christian experience. Practices like silence, solitude, and daily practices of prayer help this stream.
2. The Virtuous Life: this focuses on personal moral transformation and power to develop "holy habits". It seeks to work against the erosion of morality in personal and social life. Practices like truth-telling, abstaining from meaningless media and limiting distracting entertainment help in these streams.
3. The Spirit-Empowered Life: Focuses on the gifts of the Spirit and worship. This stream speaks to the yearning for the immediacy of God's presence among his people. This life need practices like writing down a list of our blessings, worshiping together with others, using our gifts and abilities to serve in the local church. Also, reading Scripture and opening up space for the words to speak to us about where God is leading us.
4. The Compassionate Life: This stream is about justice and shalom in all human relationships and social structures. It seeks to live out the Gospel imperative for equity and compassion among all people. The practices of doing local and global missions work, living a life of simplicity where we keep a loose grip on our possessions so that we may share them with others, practicing hospitality toward the poor and looking seriously at the companies we buy from as to whether they are helping or encouraging economic oppression in other countries or our own. Reading the book of James is a helpful exercise in seeing this stream come to life.
5. The Word-Centered Life: This stream focuses on the proclamation of the evangel, the good news of the gospel. This stream speaks to the need for people to see the good new lived and hear the good news proclaimed, along with a commitment to Scripture as the faithful story of the Gospel. Obviously, our engagement with the Bible in reading, study, and memorization are key here but also the need for Scripture to inform and give us wisdom for how we talk to other people and live in public.
6. The Sacramental Life: The sacramental stream, though it sounds complicated, is all about the realm of God - the kingdom of God or God-in-action-now - been made visible in our life. Taking the elements of communion, working at a marriage that shows the grace and goodness of God looks like in human relationships, or simply acting as Jesus would in our interactions and relationships everyday.
Father, help us take a long swim in your glistening streams so that our lives might be "with-You" lives. Amen.